We expect hospitals to use disinfectants and other cleaning products to kill germs and protect us, but new researchers suggest this practice – if administered incorrectly – could have dangerous consequences.
Published in the journal Microbiology, the study looked at biocides, chemicals that are used by hospitals to sterilize equipment and clean surfaces.
It found that if used at optimum levels, biocides can effectively destroy bacteria. However, if the dosages used for cleaning are too low, the microbes can survive and grow even stronger.
According to the research, conducted at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, bacteria have protein pumps that eliminate various toxic substances, such as antibiotics, making them resistant to drugs.
When weak biocides allow some bugs to survive, the number of these protein pumps increased.
"We found that exposure to low concentrations of a variety of biocides and dyes resulted in the appearance of resistant mutants," explained study leader Dr. Glenn Kaatz.
MRSA is one notorious "superbug" that has become resistant to antibiotics. This type of infection may result in serious illness and even death.